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50 Years a Christian, 50 Thousand Thanks: Caudill Challenges Others to Go Further In Giving

by | Oct 13, 2021

Bluefield, VAOn September 28, 1971, Dr. Don Caudill dedicated his life to Christ. In celebration of his 50th anniversary and in honor of God’s blessings, Dr. Caudill gifted $50,000 to the institution and is challenging Christians everywhere to give on their spiritual birthday to Christian organizations around the globe no matter the amount.

“I call it ‘50 years a Christian, 50 thousand thanks’ because I wanted to do something special and memorable for the golden anniversary of the most important event in my life – getting saved,” expressed Dr. Caudill.

 “$50,000 is a lot of money for me, and for many others, and represents a great sacrifice,” said Dr. Caudill. “I plan to retire soon and this money would have sustained me for a while in retirement.  But, $50,000 really wasn’t close to being equal to the value of what God has done for me during the past 50 years.  I wish I could have given $500,000 ($10,000 for each year) or $5 million, but even if I had had that much in cash it still wouldn’t have been enough.  I firmly believe that all the financial assets I have are God’s anyway and that I’m only the steward.”

“This was a significant and meaningful gift to Bluefield University,” said Dr. Marshall Flowers, Bluefield University Provost.  “As a Christ-centered ministry, we are blessed immensely by Don’s gratefulness to God for His salvation work through Christ.  We praise God for working through Don’s service in ministry in Christian higher education.”

“My sincere hope and prayer is that this gift motivates many others to give to any Christian organization on the anniversary of their being born again,” expressed Dr. Caudill. “It doesn’t have to be $1,000 for each year of salvation; it could be $100, $10, or even a $1!  I don’t think the amount matters as long as it is a sacrifice to demonstrate your dependence on God and his grace and mercy.”

A native of Norton, Virginia, who lived in Bluefield, Virginia, for 12 years, Dr. Caudill was born in the geographic center of the Appalachian Mountains to parents who worked long hours for a minimum wage. Because of their work ethic and his love for entrepreneurship, Dr. Caudill managed a paper route, lawn care service business, door-to-door sales route, and a mail-order enterprise all while still a teenager.

“Since the law in Virginia at the time was you had to be age 15 and ten months in order to get a work permit and I was 13 years old, I became an entrepreneur,” said Dr. Caudill. “I started mowing lawns (at an average of $1.50 a yard – the same amount as minimum wage per hour that both my parents earned), delivering newspapers (at 5 cents profit per paper), started my own door-to-door sales route and mail order/direct marketing business selling gift items.”

The day Dr. Caudill turned 15 years and ten months old, he went to his high school principal’s office, got his work permit, and took a school bus going through downtown Norton to apply for a job at F.W. Woolworth.

“The manager was so impressed with my eagerness to learn and willingness to do any work that he hired me on the spot,” said Dr. Caudill. “The salary was minimum wage (in 1973 $1.60 per hour) and my duties included cleaning the store, stocking shelves, assembling products (particularly bicycles), and assisting all the other employees in whatever was needed.  I’ve always believed that all work has dignity no matter how menial.”

Dr. Caudill attended Berea College in Kentucky for his undergraduate degree. He went on to receive a master’s degree in business administration from Morehead State University in Kentucky, a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and a doctorate from Virginia Tech. During his graduate studies he received the opportunity to teach, and while he always thought he’d be an entrepreneur, creating and growing businesses, he fell in love with working with students, and has been a professor ever since.

Dr. Caudill began his teaching career in 1981 as an instructor of marketing at Virginia Tech. From 2004 to 2008, he served as a professor of business at Bluefield College, now Bluefield University. During his time at Bluefield, he chaired the organizational management and leadership portion of the adult degree completion program. Dr. Caudill was also the faculty advisor for the school’s chapters of Sigma Beta Delta, Students in Free Enterprise (now Enactus), and Phi Beta Lambda (PBL).

In addition to his commitment to educating students, Dr. Caudill has dedicated his life to giving. As a teenager, he started tithing his income from his four businesses. In 2007, he established the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Fund at Bluefield University in honor of his parents in an effort to support adult education. While neither of his parents had more than an eighth-grade education, both held higher education in great esteem and made tremendous personal and financial sacrifices so that Dr. Caudill could earn a bachelor’s degree – the first person in many generations on both sides of his family to do so – two master degrees, and a doctorate.

“I have a deep love for Bluefield University and a desire to do everything I can to see the institution succeed,” said Dr. Caudill about why he supports BU. Dr. Caudill has also given gifts to BU in support of scholarships, communication students, football, and BU’s New Opportunity School for Women.

In 2018, Bluefield University received one of its most significant individual gifts in the institution’s history from Dr. Caudill and was able to transform and name its School of Business to the Dr. Donald W. Caudill School of Business.

Dr. Caudill’s gift has since helped the business program’s growth. The BU Caudill School of Business has introduced a cybersecurity concentration and minor and developed a new online master’s degree in business administration (MBA) that was launched in 2019. Other recent additions include a web and mobile development concentration and an entrepreneurship and small business management certificate program.

“Where would I be if it had not been for God?” stated Dr. Caudill. “The road to a better life is education. If you want out of poverty or if you want more, I believe there is nothing wrong with working hard and honoring God to achieve your dreams.”

“The gift from Dr. Caudill is truly from the heart.  He is a true example of a Christian servant leader.  I hope with his generosity and vision to challenge others to recognize their “birthday”/”anniversary” of becoming a Christian will be embraced by members of the greater Bluefield University community and honestly become a national movement,” said Ruth Blankenship, Vice President for Administration and Finance at Bluefield University. “This gift is more than a monetary figure; it is about a commitment of faith, a commitment to the Lord, a commitment to live his life in a manner of Biblical principle. Dr. Caudill has exemplified these commitments for 50 years.  That is the true gift and celebration.”

“I have a mantra that guides my life: ‘Work hard. Live modestly. Give generously. Laugh often,’” said Dr. Caudill. “I have learned that God’s blessings are best enjoyed when shared. Every success I’ve ever had is by the grace of God. Even if you only help one person, that’s worth the cost. You can’t put a price on changing a life.”

“We are very grateful for the generous gift and continued support from Don,” said Cathy Payne ‘92, Chair of the Centennial Campaign for BU. “This gift helps us go further in our centennial campaign.”

Today, Dr. Caudill is a professor of marketing at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.  Dr. Caudill is currently on sabbatical writing a book about personal success.  “I felt a great joy when I delivered the check to Bluefield University on Tuesday, September 28, 2021,” said Dr. Caudill. “I experienced an indescribable peace because I knew I had done what God had placed on my heart to do.”

“We thank Don for surprising us with the generous gift, but more importantly for blessing us in sharing his testimony of when he was saved and the impact that God has had on his life, said Dr. David Olive, President of Bluefield University.  “We celebrate with him in this 50th anniversary of his salvation, and I am hopeful others will respond in similar ways in recognition of all that God has done through Christ in their lives.”

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